Monday, June 10, 2013, 21:17
PN Deputy Leader Mario de Marco this evening apologised in Parliament for the Nationalist Party not having been sensitive enough to transgender persons and for not reacting quickly after the courts gave a different interpretation to the law on the fundamental human rights which Ms Joanne Cassar should have enjoyed.
He was speaking during the debate on the Civil Code (amendment) Bill which gives new rights to transgender people, including the right to marry.
He recalled that the problem arose when the Public Registrar had refused to publish Joanne Cassar’s marriage banns to enable her to marry her partner after a gender change operation and despite her birth certificate having been changed.
The PN government could have been more sensitive to her case, Dr de Marco said.
Consequently, Ms Cassar had to open a series of legal proceedings to safeguard her rights.
Two court sentences had upheld Ms Cassar’s requests and two others did not. This led to Ms Cassar having to seek redress in the European Court of Human Rights, after which the Labour Government agreed to amend domestic law.
Dr deMarco said that this was a question of an individual’s freedom of choice without impinging on the rights of others. A principle of freedom and civil law was that one should enjoy freedoms without impinging on the freedoms of others.
This Bill, declaring the right of transgender people to marry, strengthened society’s rights and did not affect the rights of others.
One had to recognise the trauma suffered by transgender persons when society failed to understand them. Often they were marginalised and subject to abuse.
Parliament was this making a small step forward acknowledging individual rights without discrimination.
He quoted UK legislation and asked whether requests for changes in birth certificate after a sex change could be made informally to a gender-recognition panel instead of to the courts to show more sensitivity.
Discrimination was still the most sensitive issue as shown by European statistics where nine countries effectively protected transgender persons against violence.
Concluding, he said that this was an opportunity for transgender persons in Malta to feel themselves better than others across many countries in the EU.